Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Dawn of a New Caregiver

One of my rabid fans (I have so many, you know, it's hard to keep track) asked me about my current caregiver, and since I don’t think I ever really posted about it (there was a lot of trauma going on at that time), I am happy to oblige. Because, you know, I’m very accommodating like that. Also, I am her #2 fan, right after Jellybean, so I am more than happy to sing her praises.

I was very lucky to have a nanny for the first year and a half (give or take a month) of young Jelly’s life. It was a somewhat stressful time, as I couldn’t really afford it. What my household budget didn't cover I made up for out of my savings account, which disappeared much faster than I expected. I was also adjusting to being a working mom, having a (stranger) in my house M-F, and dealing with my sweet little baby snuggling up to someone else. Eventually, as with all good things, the awesome nanny got fed up with the long work hours, dealing with me, and empty promises of raises and quit. There are some posts from last fall if you are interested in how much I cried and raged over this (yes, I’m a crier, I’m a Cancer if you couldn't tell). I knew I couldn’t afford another nanny, plus I was ready to have my home back to myself. I was very against home daycare as a permanent solution; I wanted reliable, and consistent, and educational, and social. Not a lot to ask, right? Of course that’s in addition to healthy and caring and loving and all those things. But those first few, those were the ones I thought I’d have trouble with in a homecare provider.

Then I got to experience the nightmare that is Touring Daycares as a Past Daycare Teacher. I only went to two locations, and that was it. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted. To be fair, I went to two super-crappy daycares (no, I didn’t know it at the time, duh). To be fair, there are lots of great centers out there with terrific programs and good directors and wonderful teachers. And if anything ever happened with Miss D, that is probably the route I would go, because I could never love another caregiver the way I love her, and my heart would be broken. But at the time, it was traumatic enough dealing with the idea of not having Jenny at home with me 24/7, let alone looking at dimly-lit depressing overcrowded dirty rooms with sparse broken toys and beanie-wienie lunches. Ok, maybe it wasn’t really THAT bad, but in my mind I might as well have been abandoning her in a Russian orphanage. In winter. And she was hungry and sick. See, it was really stressful.

Here in Raleigh we moms have a really great online support network, the Triangle Mommies group. I am torn between loving and hating them. I love them because they led me to my current group of bestest mommy friends ever in the whole world, the CSMs. Because of TM I have a circle of about half a dozen people I feel incredibly close to and supported by, more girl friends at one time than I’ve ever had, and if I was less judge-y I’d have even more (if you read my blog, you’re one, don’t get all worried or feel left out). The group provides a wealth of knowledge, experience, and advice from all kinds of mommies just like me – confused, scared, and learning every day. However, they are also kinda censor-y, which I am really against. You can’t always speak your mind on the forum, and if you do, you are reprimanded. That ain’t cool. People post stupid shit all the time just to get attention or validation, and I don’t have time for that nonsense. If I wanted to listen to inanities I’d talk to Jelly’s Dora toys.

I turned to TM in my search for a childcare provider, hoping that I’d get some decent leads, and quickly. Since the economy was in the crapper, there were a lot of moms who were doing home care, and messaged me themselves or recommended friends. I talked to a few women but none seemed right. One seemed ok, but she watched some other kids so I worried Jelly wouldn’t get much attention or be able to go anywhere. Her house was smaller than others I’d looked at. She had dogs. I found a billion little tiny things that weren’t perfect, but decided to try it out.

I couldn’t be happier. It should have taught me a lesson in being less judge-y, but obviously it did not because I'm still a jerk most of the time. Miss D not only loves Jenny like her own, but Miss D’s whole family loves Jenny. And Jenny loves them. Today, she didn’t want to call me when she potty’d – she wanted to go tell Miss D’s youngest daughter, who is one of Jelly’s dearest friends, and like a big sister to her. Miss D takes her to the children’s museum, and to the park, and to the mall play area when it’s too hot. She buys her treats, and presents, and does art activities, and it’s totally because of her that Jelly learned her colors. They’re working on the alphabet next. Jenny gets home-cooked meals, and good naps, and learns social skills (she plays) with the other little kids that Miss D watches. In addition, Miss D is flexible with drop-off and pick-up, will watch her after-hours, supports surprise visits, AND gives me a ‘Moms Night Out’ where she babysits FOR FREE one night a month. And I pay less than half of what I paid to have a nanny (which, as I mentioned, was not a lot).

Communicating with a (stranger) who takes care of the most precious thing in your world is tricky at best. Luckily (and, somewhat sadly) I learned a lot from mistakes I’d made with my nanny. I’ve learned when to mention something that matters, and when to ignore the small things. I’ve gotten better at saying things in a non-attack-mode kind of way. I’ve learned to read between the lines better. And I’ve learned that there are a lot of things that turn out to be unimportant when the most important thing is the happiness and welfare of – nope, not your child – the person watching your child. Because that, to some extent, is going to determine the environment in which your child is nurtured.

Miss D has a smile for Jenny every single morning, no matter what is going on or what her previous day/night was like. She has a smile and funny story for me every day when I pick up The Bean. She sends me text messages with little things that Jelly did or said, or pictures of her playing. I get a daily report of what she had for meals, when she napped, when she potty’d, and what her mood was like (Friends Of Jenny will not be surprised to learn the status is always the same; ‘Happy and Energetic’). I think in the seven or so months she’s had maybe one day when she couldn’t watch Jenny, and that was because of that nasty flu that went around in the spring. I never, NEVER would’ve guessed that Miss D would’ve become such an integral part of our lives, or such a good friend. And no, she does not read my blog so I’m not just sucking up so she’ll be nice to the kid. I really and truly am surprised and thrilled that everything has worked out like this, and I’m so freaking grateful every single day. It’s a tremendous comfort, never having to worry about any aspect of the hours when Jenny is away from home, which adds up to a lot – in the average week, Jelly has about 70 waking hours; at least 35 of those are spent with someone other than me.

I know that there are people who aren’t as lucky. I know that people experience all kinds of stress and difficulties in navigating the home childcare waters. If you can find someone who is conveniently located, there’s no guarantee that they will do anything but let your child watch TV for 6 hours a day. If you find someone who has a huge house and great backyard, they may feed your child nothing but Hot Pockets and Sugar Smacks. It’s hard enough finding friends who share child-rearing philosophies. No chocolate milk in the bottle. No bottle period, for a toddler. Don’t tolerate inappropriate behavior, but don’t count to three a hundred zillion times in warning. Be firm, but fair. I’m constantly surprised by how many varieties of approaches there are to the same ol’ little day-to-day things, and happily surprised when I learn that Miss D handles them pretty much the exact same way I do. Again, LUCKY. I have no good advice for people who are desperate to find a Miss D of their own, or want to find one in the future. Definitely check references, and check THOSE references (references from people you either don’t know or don’t trust are worthless, make sense?). And if your gut says it’s ok, don’t be afraid to take a chance on someone. It may end up being someone your son or daughter loves very, very much. And that’s invaluable.

Ok, so maybe she's as goofy as me and that's why I like her so much. So sue me. They are dressed up for free chicken at Chick Fil A. So hilarious. Don't give me any more ideas for posts today because I am trying to come up with ways to avoid work and would love an excuse to blog more.

4:00 pm POTTY UPDATE: Jenny dry all day


Barb said...

Love this. I am equally blessed to have a home daycare provider that Sam loves, and it actually makes me feel good that some days he doesn't want to come home. I came upon Jamie by accident also and had there been a lot of other options I might not have even considered her, but I followed my gut and she's been the greatest gift a single mommy could ever had. Thanks for another awesome post that said all the things that I think but am never eloquent enough to say... especially the stuff about being judge-y. I love your self-deprecating sense of humor. Wish I could be more like that.

Shannon said...

Thanks for listening to your rabid fans and answering questions so quickly! I promise I won't ask you anything else....today. I'm very jealous of Miss D. Wonder if she'd consider moving down here to CLT?

And thanks for sharing your experiences. I'm bookmarking this entry, too.

MommieV said...

Wow, she sounds awesome. SO glad you found someone good, I remember the anger and tears when your nanny left. I will pay $715 a month for three-day-a-week care starting next week. My mom has her one day, and one day I have been "working from home" but really need to do actual work and I find that difficult to do from home. My mom wants to watch her full-time and have me pay her - money for her, cheaper for me. But I feel like she will have more structure in the daycare setting. So I'm kindof struggling. I think single moms need that key person they trust for quality care. I'm trying to figure out if that person is my mom for me.

And yay for the potty update.

The Ta said...

You forgot to mention Miss D is Ta-Friendly!

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